As I sit, watching this 1960’s character (judging by the music, cars and styles, I would guess late 60’s) for about 2 minutes, a recurring question keeps coming in: Have you ever wondered what happened to Michael Douglas in the lead up to his explosion in “Falling Down”? The secret is: “A Serious Man” – the gradual falling of a Jewish man in an unspecified South Dakota town is both humorous and appalling, a cringe and laugh fest from beginning to end.
The story is about a Middle age man who seems to be getting hit from all sides: a question about his job security, a wife who wants to leave him, a broth who lives on his couch, a daughter who seems to do nothing in life except wash her hair, and a soon to be Bah-Mitzvah’ed son who cares more about smoking pot and watching TV then anything else in life. Very little in life seems to go the protagonist’s way, even his dreams seem to want to kick him when he is down.
Some way wonder why the Coen’s are up for just the best picture and best original screenplay – maybe a token nod to them as artists who have been there before? Possibly. May also wonder why they are not up for best director as well – since the film is not as visually stunning as “No Country for Old Men”, but does have all the grace and aptitude of “Fargo”. But the true artistry for the Coen’s in this piece lies within the writing.
It can be argued that the Coen Brothers are the finest multi-genre screenwriters in this generation. Yes, I might be very generous with that previous statement, but dwell on it for a second, I think you will find it to be very much the truth. Few writers can write a dark comedy so well that you not only laugh out loud, but feel complete pity for the protagonist (Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik, a down on his luck Physics Professor) and those around him. The absurdity of his dreams, the crushing realities that surround him, and even the little wins in his life come back to him as negative boomerangs, whipping his up moments until he is down.
With all that being said, I look at A Serious Man as a fine, Mighty fine movie, worthy of a Best Picture nod (But not a win, as this film has neither the lead in, or acclaim that either Fargo or No Country for Old Men had) and worthy of a Best Director nomination (though it did not receive once). However, it’s nomination for Best Original Screenplay is not only warranted, but expected. Necessary, in fact. As it is, I have a genuine belief that it could (and should) win.